Thursday, 28 February 2013

Novel designs are taking wind power to the next level
6 Feb 2013

Superficially, wind turbines haven't changed much for decades. But they've gotten much smarter, and considerably bigger, and that's helped increase the amount of electricity they can generate and lower the cost of wind power.

GE's new 2.5 120 wind turbine, announced last week, is a case in point. Its maximum power output, 2.5 MWs, is lower than that of the 2.85 MW turbine it's superseding. But over the course of a year it can generate 15% more kW hours. Arrays of sensors paired with better algorithms for operating and monitoring the turbine let it keep spinning when earlier generations of wind turbines would have had to shut down.

The technology is part of a trend that's made wind power almost as cheap as fossil fuels. In 1991, wind power cost 15 ¢ per kW hour. The cost has now dropped to 6.5 ¢ per kW hour, says Ryan Wiser, deputy group leader for Electricity Markets and Policy at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in Berkeley, California. New natural gas power plants are expected to generate electricity at about 6.5 ¢ per kW hour.

A new generation of more productive wind turbines that's coming on line this year could be what it takes to make wind widely competitive with fossil fuels.

Read More…